Wednesday, June 22, 2016

DVD Movie Review #181 South Park Season 18

I must admit I am a South Park fan. I have been enjoying the series since season one. Sometimes I try to watch it on hulu but I must admit I have to have more interest watching things through physical media. I have had season 18 of the series for a long time but it has been shelved for other things. I still don’t know how this series is continuing to go and how they can charge anyone $30 for 10 episodes.

This season seems to be more together than the others. This series starts off with a strange take on Crowd funding and then an even stranger take on the Musician Lorde which ends with a social commentary on video game commentary and the final issues with Lorde.

This season it feels different as the episodes are all connected on some level or another. The storylines in the beginning are ever present in some level even through to the end of the season. I have to give it this for storytelling. I did really see a few gems in this season. South Park is usually hit or miss overall and I must admit the hits were really on point. I really thought that the commentary on Gluten, drones and commentary are all very good. The best by far this season was the commentary on Freemium games that caught my attention the most. I have to say it was very accurate and in their own style hit it right on the head. This season is one of those that has more good episodes than the bad.

Oh we had some bad and the bad was hard to watch. Their commentary on Gender neutral bathrooms was confusing at best making it really hard to see where they were coming from (which can also be the case). I have to say in the end the worst of all was the “Cock Magic” episode. This went beyond social commentary and became something terrible and very much disgusting…they really needed to put the joke down and not have Randy expose himself to a party full of kindergarteners. I don’t know about anyone else but isn’t South Park getting much shorter season wise. I mean 10 episodes?!

In the end this is another short but very good overall season of the show. I don’t feel it is worth the money for the content but if you can find it for around $10 like I did this would be a good watch.


Rating :  7/10  

Monday, June 20, 2016

DVD Movie Review #180 Tokyo Ghoul Season 1

Fate can take a lot of turns in life. You find that dollar on the sidewalk and buy a winning lotto ticket, others can be in the used DVD store quality. I was at 2nd and Charles (by the way a fun place for cool stuff) and noticed a rather beaten up copy of the Tokyo Ghoul, first season on DVD for $10.50. This is an up and coming series that has a lot of chatter on about it so I figured “why not, I can save me $30 and try this out”. I also got lucking in a second way when my wife looked at the series and 
became interested allowing for much quicker viewing.

Tokyo Ghoul is a story about an average college student finally able to go out with the girl of his dreams, unfortunately for him she is a blood thirsty monster who wants to eat him. Fate intervenes and she dies before she can finish him off giving him access to her organs in a transplant that not only saves his life but changes it fundamentally forever. This story examines the lives of Ghouls, humanoids who have to eat human flesh to survive and their relationships with the numerous humans that live around them. Our hero gets to see how very different aspects of society are changed in relation to the ghouls living within many times at his peril as he has to learn to adapt to the new double life he has to live.

This is a very well animated show. The movements and fight scenes are very fluid and the colors are vibrant to the point that I wish I had purchased this on Blue Ray (not making that mistake for season 2). The backgrounds are very stylish and kind of have a Twin Peaks style feel to them coming off as creepy yet garish at the same time. The voice acting for the English cast was pretty much on point with a veteran cast (these days most English voice actors are veterans) and good choices for the characters they are representing. I didn’t thing at all that any of them was bored or wanted to leave, which is good considering I have had that feeling in the past from some series. The characters are interesting with a strong supporting cast of the usual types: Serious Guy in Classes, Tsundere, Useless Kid, etc. Finally the story is gripping and thrilling at the same time. It draws you in to see the different ways Ghouls had adapted to living in human society and that not all of them were just random serial killers. The pacing keeps you watching for multiple episodes at a time and keeps you well ensnared in the plot.

With the above being said there are four aspects of this series that bother me with three being minor things and the last being a major drawback (dropping the rating I gave by 2 points). The first is with the animation. I feel that it is fluid and at times beautiful to look at but the fight scenes can be hard to follow and sometimes confusing at moments. The second is where it left off. They must have been damn confident that they were getting a second season as they left off in the friggen middle of a battle. It was an ok drop off point but if the series had ended this alone would have kept me from buying it. The third aspect is that I felt they underutilized many of the background characters. There is a wealth of riches here that I feel has been underused due to the length of the show. I can give them slack on this as the show is only in season one but I was saddened that one of the characters ended up dying before we could delve much into his past history. The last and most aggravating point is the main character. This guy is Shinji Ikari all over again (for those of you unfamiliar he is the main character in evangelion). This guy is spineless, whiney and indecisive to the point where people end up dying because of it. Every time this guy would go into his whiney rants about how terrible it is that he has to eat human flesh or he doesn’t want to fight made me feel like he was clawing a chalk board. This is the reason why I cannot give the series one major writing boon for the internal conflict between the character’s old life and new one because every time we focused too much on him you just wanted to slap the guy. I am curious as to how they will treat him come season two as the end of one brought him through some pretty significant mental and physical changes that may end up being for the better.

In the end this is a gripping thriller (not horror, I feel this is a hard thing to do in anime) that will keep you interested and despite its negatives will make you want to have more even if you cannot stomach the main entrée. The only afterthought is that you really need to keep up with the series if you plan on watching it so make sure you have money invested.

Rating:  8/10   

DVD Movie Review #179 Half Baked

Lets talk a little bit about Dave Chappelle. The man was a comedy icon for a time raking in the money and the love of audiences all over. He had a moment of clarity and became a warrior for Justice and comedic purity which he still favors to this day. We are of course not talking about that Dave Chappelle. We are going back to the days when he was getting himself into the acting business doing jokes (many weed related) that got him into the industry as a whole. We are of course talking about that defining film “Half-Baked”. I have been meaning to watch this film for years but have unfortunately been sidelined due to many other things. Finding a copy of this gem for $1 was hard to resist.

This is a story of four potheads they enjoy living their lives, getting together at the end of the day and getting high. When one of them goes to jail for killing a police animal (you just have to watch it to understand) they make a pact to raise the money in order to get him out of jail. Along the way Dave Chappelle’s character gains introspective and has to take a long hard look at the life he is currently leading and where he hopes to be in the future.

This film does have a number of funny moments. Dave Chappelle is on point with his acting and I can easily see where this got him started on the boom that launched him towards stardom. I would say his portrayal of the weed based rapper had to be one of the better moments of enjoyment and you could easily see who he was lampooning there. I also thought that the scene where the dog was getting high and became one of the group had a special place. The plot was simplistic but comedy wise this is usually better as it loses laughs when you get too wound up into plot points and twists.
The worst sin this movie committed for me is that there were times that it really bored me. I felt that there were some definite lags that could have been better taken care of in the writing. I also feel that they under-utilized the supporting cast and while this put Dave Chappelle more clearly in the forefront I don’t feel that it was a necessary move. Lastly I wasn’t that impressed by the acting all the way around when it came to the supporting cast. It doesn’t take much to play a dumb stoner but I feel the basic personalities of the characters were kind of lost out after their introductions and they just all became “dumb stoners” chuckling away in the background (except for Dave Chappelle).  I finally feel that the plot had a lot of points but that the ending didn’t feel right to me. I once saw an alternate ending for the film (I won’t spoil it for you) where Dave Chappelle’s character choses differently. I kind of think in the spirit of comedy they could have done better if they went in this direction as the character became too serious in the end.

In truth I can seen how this film boosted Dave Chappelle’s career, it is a basic and enjoyable stoner comedy. I do think that it could have been done better in the end and though it may be a Gem it is one in the rough.

Rating 6/10 

DVD Movie Review #178 Born in East LA

I have been revisiting a lot of classics lately. I mean with Movie stop going out of business I have gotten a lot of them for $2 or less J. I managed to get hold of a copy of one of my favorite classic films Born in East LA. I remember last watching this on HBO with my father as he loved anything doing with Cheech, Chong or both. So of course we need to move this way together back into the past.

Our hero is a man living with his family and running his own auto repair business. He has been sent to a factory to meet a family member that had come across the border to visit. Unfortunately this is the same time that the government has come by to raid the place and our hero, who has left his wallet at home gets thrown in with the crowd and deported. We now start the story of a man trying to get back across the border into the United States and all the difficulties therein.

This movie is a classic. I love these old films, they have a biting humor that you cannot utilize in this day and age. The laughs here are frequent and Cheech has always been good with comedic timing. I think one scene involving a picture of Jesus (if you have seen it you know the one) still has me almost rolling around and laughing. Also having the character born and raised in the united states and of course not being able to speak Spanish is a pretty funny yet cool commentary on our education system here. The acting in this film is passable and the casting is enjoyable. It is great to see our friend Marv back in action in a smarter but more slimy role. The last scene in my opinion is pretty powerful and can evoke multiple feelings in people (what type of feeling depends on what side of the fence you are on).

This movie does suffer from being a creature of its time. First we have the typical comedy format of the 80s and 90s which involves the same overall formula for comedies of that time. Seeing this movie isn’t much different from seeing others such as Delirious, Shrimp on the Barbie or Cadillac Man, the jokes change but the overall formula remains the same in the end. I have nothing fully against this format as it has produced many a good comedy over the years but it is still there and therefore the freshness of this film is not so good. Of course the jokes themselves have a hard time standing up to the tests of time. In a society that is very much more socially aware and politically correct a lot of the jokes come across as borderline offensive to most and to those more opposed to immigration it would be downright terrible. If you cannot hold back that social justice warrior within none of Cheech’s films should be on your list as there is a lot of stereotyping going on.
In the end this is another great comedy from the 90s. It may be showing its age but like many films of the time you look at it from the standpoint of the time were in on its creation and can still sit back and laugh. This is a classic I would easily recommend to any non-social justice warrior that just likes fun comedy.

Rating 7/10

Sunday, June 19, 2016

DVD Movie Review #177 Perception Season 1

There are a number of things that get a person into a series, seeing it on TV, TV Spots, Friends and of course there is always the twist of Fate. Movie Stop was closing and they decided to do a sale of 75% off. Well for $2.50 I am willing to try out a series that stars one of the major players of Will & Grace. I must admit I am a tad burned out on Police Procedurals but in the end it was worth the pickup.

I had been asking myself the questions over and over again as this series dances around the line of offensive and informative. I will make a case for the later of the two. I work with mental health and have seen series and movies involving Mental Illness before. I will say there is no series around that brings out the subject of mental illness pulling out a new diagnosis every episode and many of which you don’t seen when it comes to mainstream media. The acting is also extremely good. I must admit Eric McCormack is a pretty good actor and he is really good at this part. His mannerisms and the way that they present his Mental Illness draws me in and is fairly believable, this is coming from someone in the field. The cases are fairly interesting and one of the episodes in Season one left me a little tearful covering how often law enforcement just loses their ability to care when Mental Illness is involved as well as showing  the terrible treatment they get. I remember a quote from the individual after they went into the hospital "The closest person to me in the world isn't real but I still miss her."  

In the end this is yet another police procedural. I mean I have seen half a dozen series about an eccentric yet gifted individual consulting and paired with a female officer solving crimes. Elementary, Sleepy Hollow and Lucifer are good examples of this formula. I feel it is a bit tiring and repetitive.  I must admit that there is a part of me that is also irked by the lead character benefiting so much from his illness and not taking medications which may send the wrong message.  I must also say that the amount of benefit he receives is exceptional as I have never encountered a case where a person has helpful hallucinations, is aware of them while off of medications and utilizes them to gain insight into himself. I am not saying it is impossible as I have seen one in a million cases before but still….this part tests the suspension of my disbelief. The other thing is that I am uncertain this would be good for anyone with Schizophrenia to see especially the last episodes of this that shows that paranoid delusions can sometimes be real. It made for interesting viewing but I didn't like the premise and the ending left me ok but still not happy in the end.

Other than this series being overdone many times over and the potential questionable nature of the message I must admit I cannot help but like this series. The acting is very much on form and I feel that this is definitely worth checking out. At least I am interested in seeing Season 2 and we can see where that takes us.   


Rating:  6/10

DVD Movie Review #176 Gravitation

There are many odd things in this world and one of the many for me is the type of anime in the Yaoi and Yuri type. These are types of anime that involve same sex couples and relationships. They are an odd type of anime as they are typically done differently than your typical Brokeback mountain style story.  I have watched many of the Yuri variety (girl x girl) with a few that stuck out such as Kashimashi and I have also seen a couple of the Yaoi variety mainly from curiosity such as Earthian and Mirage of Blaze. In the end I saw a few similarities in them as both tended to really flaunt the relationships of the characters as being Gay and pushed them to the forefront for their target audiences (horny men and women). This has been a turn off for me on both fronts as I am no longer a teen and the appeal of Yuri has mostly worn off and Yaoi really didn’t have an appeal for me any more than gay porn. After watching the initial two I did decide to try my luck again when I found a copy of Gravitation for $20 (the copy I have typically goes for close to $200 so if anything I could turn it around. This of course showed me a very different aspect of the Yaoi series that I had previously only seen from a few Yuri titles.

Shuichi and his friend are in a band called Bad Luck. They are trying to make it on their own in the music world. Yuki is an emotionally distant but famous romance writer. The two meet through a chance of fate when Yuki spies and tells Shuichi how terrible his writing is. From this point a relationship slowly forms between the two.  This series from this point follows two distinct plots from the rise of “Bad Luck” and the emotional relationship building  between Yuki and Shuichi.

First lets talk about one of the main focuses of this series which is the muic (I know, I know the relationship is on your mind but we will get there). I really liked that they spent time concentrating on the songs and the musical development of the character. This series actually has a feel similar to those similar series such as Kirarin Revolution, Full Moon or in a lesser way K-ON. The songs for the opener and ender are a little dated but otherwise are pretty good overall.  There is actual comedy within the otherwise serious drama that can take place within the series. I found myself chuckling at some of the strange characters such as the strange child-like character of Shuichi’s rival yet with some surprising emotional depth revealed more towards the end. They did a lot of character building for the side characters as well such as Yuki’s fiancé and her struggle with the likelihood that her relationship with her future husband is not going to come to fruition. The other members of Bad luck from their short tempered keyboardist to the loyal but Charismatic friend. Finally we get to our two main characters. Shuichi is an interesting character that is very different from the typical submissive character seen in a lot of Yaoi types. He is typically submissive in regard to his relationship with Yuki but shows strength emotionally that in the end comes out stronger. Yuki is by far the more complex character. He is the cool strong type with the sordid past and normally this character type annoys the heck out of me (damn you Sasuke Uchiha!).  Yuki is different in that he is guarded but obviously has more depth emotionally than some of his emotionally similar counterparts. When Yuki broke down and cried for the first time it was a truly touching scene showing that he isn’t just the arrogant bastard you meet at the beginning of the series but a real person.  The last part that I have to hold over is that they treat the relationship normally concentrating on the character’s emotions so that it isn’t uncomfortable like it was for many people seeing Yaoi or in some areas in movies like Brokeback mountain which felt disjointed at times. You know things are going on but you don’t feel you are watching soft core porn like with some in that category. It isn’t just “hey look at us! We’re a gay couple!, Ain’t it hot!” (Now for those of you who are into that I have heard that he manga is much more in that tone)

There are of course some glaring issues with this series. The main one is the English Dub. Yuki sounds like he is dead inside but is sounds more like the voice actor is dead tired of voicing the character and you kind of get that from multiple fronts in the series. The series also has an issue at times with the humor and its timing  I did feel some of the jokes were forced and this was not what was needed  at the time. I must admit this is what made Shuichi’s character a tad annoying at times. Some of the humor was decidedly odd, which isn’t too different from most anime but still it could turn a new fan off, such as the strange agent who constantly is walking around with an assault rifle in Japan (such are illegal for public use) or Shuichi’s constant costume changes. Finally I feel the series was a tad dated musically but this can be a problem in getting us to relate to the characters. I feel we have similar issues with series such as Bubblegum Crisis.  

In the end this is not a bad series but it falls short of a great series. It was a pretty well written romance with minor comedic elements thrown in. The series may be a little dated in some aspects and the timing may be off but these are by far only minor issues. Many of my fellow anime fans have difficulty in following a series strictly because it is Yuri or Yaoi but in this case I would say it is worth it for you to put your preconceived notions aside and give this one a shot.  


Overall Rating:  7/10


PS: There are two OVA episodes I feel that this exploits the flaws of the series a little too much and to me is unnecessary. I almost felt like it was forced in order to add more content to meet demand. Also thought they style took on a more manga esc look I felt like the animation quality fell a bit. I remember watching the musical performance and it didn’t even look like the animators and voice actors cared about synching the song with the mouth movements and this is for the Japanese track.


OVA Rating 4/10